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CHEST: 85 Years in the Making

By: Katlyn Campbell

Murray KornfeldWhat is known today as the American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST) began with the vision of Murray Kornfeld.

In 1917, Murray had his first experience with chest-related disease when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. However, it wasn’t until his second bout of tuberculosis in 1923 that Murray began to learn about the hindrances surrounding the proper diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

After publishing his own journal and selling advertisements for another, Murray was invited to join the National Tuberculosis Association for the purpose of obtaining subscriptions to the Journal of the Outdoor Life and the American Review of Tuberculosis. Eager to learn more about tuberculosis, he accepted and spent the next 2 years traveling from sanatoriums to talk with physicians and patients. Through this work, Murray realized that physicians were lacking the knowledge to diagnose tuberculosis in the early stages, which sparked his interest in creating a publication called Diseases of the Chest. This publication would seek to inform physicians on recognition and treatment of chest diseases and would later be what we know today as the journal CHEST®.

Murray KornfeldWith the help of his wife, Judy Kornfeld, the two traveled across the United States to enlist support for this publication. They sought to establish a society of physicians interested in contributing to this educational publication. It wasn’t until Murray spoke with Dr. Charles M. Hendricks, a chest physician with an interest in writing, in El Paso, Texas, that the publication began to see light. Hendricks believed that Murray’s pitch to provide physicians with a medical journal was valid and timely. With Hendricks as the Editor in Chief, the next step was to secure 6 months of manuscripts for publication along with proper funding. In March 1935, the first issue of Diseases of the Chest was published.

In 1935, the Federation of American Sanatoria was founded with the intention to discuss the role of sanatoriums as it relates to early diagnosis of tuberculosis among patients. The organization held a meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on August 10, 1935, to have this discussion, with a turnout of 39 registrants. From then on, the organization's goal was to educate the general practitioner on the early diagnosis of tuberculosis and other chest diseases, with Diseases of the Chest being adopted as the official publication. Murray was elected Executive Secretary of the Federation of American Sanatoria and Managing Editor of the journal. This was the first establishment of what would later be known as the American College of Chest Physicians and the annual meeting. The name American College of Chest Physicians was established in 1937 after a realization that the organization had a larger role to play in the advancement of medical science.

Diseases of the Chest publication

The first International Congress on Diseases of the Chest was held in 1950 in Rome with Pope Pius XII in attendance. This meeting established the College as an influential organization with global reach in chest medicine education.

In 1953, postgraduate seminars were introduced at the College’s annual meeting as a series of lectures on cardiac and pulmonary subjects. Due to the demand for these postgraduate courses, they have continued today and are fixtures at the annual meetings. (Although, postgraduate courses are no longer $7.50 for registrants as they were in the 50s; similarly, dues to be a member of the College are no longer $5 as they were when the organization started).

Today Murray’s vision persists with CHEST having over 18,000 members, representing 141 different countries and all members of the chest care team, including advanced practice providers, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, and more. In 2019, around 5,000 clinicians attended the annual meeting. The College’s reach has expanded to include online learning activities, print and digital publications, and an annual board review course for clinicians in chest medicine.

In 1935, Murray envisioned a society of professionals that would teach chest medicine to each other and their peers and to create a journal educating physicians on diseases of the chest. Eighty-five years later, we’re confident Murray Kornfeld would be proud of what CHEST has become.